Raft of library changes revealed by Worcestershire County Council

County Hall, the HQ of Worcestershire County Council

The Hive, in Worcester

St John's Library in Worcester

First published in News
Last updated
Malvern Gazette: Tom Edwards by , Political Reporter

MOBILE library services across Worcestershire are being dramatically scaled down as part of £2.7 million of cuts.

Worcestershire County Council's Conservative leadership has backed a raft of changes to library services in a bid to save cash.

Although it means all 17 libraries in the county will stay open, your Worcester News can reveal how a series of significant changes have been drawn up.

For the mobile library service it means:

- The four vehicles currently in operation will reduce to just one

- The vehicles currently get sent around on a three-weekly basis, but that rota will reduce in frequency to just once a month

- All existing stops within three miles of a stationary library will be deleted to reduce the burden on taxpayers

- That means the current number of stops, which is around 430 across Worcestershire, is set to fall by around 50 per cent and urban areas will take the biggest hit

The huge changes are subject to a three-month consultation, and the council has pledged to contact "all customers" to see how they feel about it before finalising the cuts.

A council report, which was endorsed by the Conservative cabinet yesterday, says the current vehicles are "in extremely poor condition" and have "very high" maintenance costs.

The vehicles currently stop for 15 minutes in each location for people to drop off and collect books, and a high proportion of customers are pensioners or those without a car.

The report says service cancellations are becoming fairly regular, and reveals that "consideration had been given to closing the service completely".

Bosses have ruled out that option amid fears the council could be risking falling short of laws set back in 1964 stating that local authorities must provide a basic library service.

If accepted, it will save the council £100,000 in running cost each year but residents within three miles of any county library will bear the brunt of the decision.

Councillor Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, said: "Every customer will be consulted and there will be solutions for every mobile library user.

"This council has taken out £1.9 million (of library services spending) between 2011 and 2014 without the need to close a single library."

Among a raft of other library changes endorsed yesterday was a review of opening hours at Worcester's £60m Hive.

The report says officers are examining three ways of saving cash at the gold-cladded facility, which could see a proposal tabled to reduce its availability.

Other ideas include trying to secure a rebate on the building's insurance costs, and talks with OFGEM to cut the building's emission costs.

Of the £2.7 million the council wants to save from libraries between 2011 and 2016, £2.2 million has already been achieved while £513,000 still needs to be achieved.

SO WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ACTUAL LIBRARY BUILDINGS?

AMONG the other changes to Worcestershire's libraries are a review of opening hours and staffing levels at sites across the county.

A dossier on the plans mention "further reviews" of libraries in areas including St John's, Malvern, Pershore, Droitwich, Evesham, Stourport and Tenbury on top of trying to reduce running costs at The Hive.

But the report also revealed how four other libraries at the risk of closure are set to be saved, including Upton.

A new trust is being set up, which is currently seeking charity status with a view to taking a five-year lease on the School Lane site.

The council says it will rent the library to the trust at a "peppercorn" rate, with a 'break clause' in the second year if either parties are unhappy.

The centre will be ran by a mixture of council staff and volunteers who will be trained up to take on the bulk of the work.

A similar arrangement is being finalised for Broadway Library, with a community group seeking charity status to take on the management of the premises and all the financial responsibility for it.

The opening hours will stay the same, with the council preparing to train an army of volunteers to run it.

In Hagley, the parish council is expected to take it over from September, again staffing it with volunteers, while in Bewdley the existing plan to relocate it onto the town's Dog Lane car park is nearing a conclusion, with building work due to start in October and an opening date of the autumn of 2015.

The changes were all backed by the cabinet yesterday, which said months of work has resulted in none of Worcestershire's libraries closing.

Of the £2.7 million the council wants to save from libraries between 2011 and 2016, £2.2 million has already been achieved while £513,000 still needs to be clawed back.

The spending cuts means each library user in Worcestershire costs the taxpayer £1.93, which is the lowest of any county in England.

The national average is £3.36, and for similar counties it stands at £2.80.

Councillor John Campion, cabinet member for transformation and commissioning, said: "We've got a great example here of significant amounts of public resource being put into libraries.

"We are at the top of the table for value-for-money, and thanks to this work we will still be able to provide a quality library service despite taking money out.

"For us, it's a shining example of how we can work with our communities, 'in it together', to carry on providing a level of service.

"In other parts of the country, council executives are getting reports before them that are nothing like this, we've seen people protest about it and anger, but that's not the case in Worcestershire."

Councillor Anthony Blagg, cabinet member for the environment, said: "We've heard of so many other authorities closing libraries, in some cases I've heard up to 20 (libraries closing in one area), it's phenomenal."

Others said they were relieved that closures are being avoided.

Councillor Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, said: "The financial challenge the council faces is well documented but by working innovatively and supporting our partners, groups and volunteers we've been able to ensure all libraries, which continue to be used better than ever, have remained open."

At the Hive, on top of reviewing the opening hours other ideas include trying to secure a rebate on the insurance bill, and talks with OFGEM to cut the emission costs.

Comments (6)

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10:00pm Fri 18 Jul 14

BadgerMash says...

Drastic cuts making a real difference to a lot of people all over the county - for a saving of less than 0.2% of the cost of the Hive.

The County Council seems to increasingly have a policy that if you live in a rural area and do not have a car you should be "nudged" into a town by them withdrawing the limited remaining public services they grudgingly provide.
Drastic cuts making a real difference to a lot of people all over the county - for a saving of less than 0.2% of the cost of the Hive. The County Council seems to increasingly have a policy that if you live in a rural area and do not have a car you should be "nudged" into a town by them withdrawing the limited remaining public services they grudgingly provide. BadgerMash
  • Score: 7

11:47pm Sat 19 Jul 14

VertisRob says...

If it wasn't for the library van turning up at school i would of had no inspiration to read as a child, i wouldn't of visited libraries as they are daunting for a first time without an introduction, i wouldn't of gone on to an a* in english literature, i wouldn't of gone into management and be paying the same level of tax. Why do our councils always do short term mathematics instead of long term
If it wasn't for the library van turning up at school i would of had no inspiration to read as a child, i wouldn't of visited libraries as they are daunting for a first time without an introduction, i wouldn't of gone on to an a* in english literature, i wouldn't of gone into management and be paying the same level of tax. Why do our councils always do short term mathematics instead of long term VertisRob
  • Score: 0

10:14am Sun 20 Jul 14

New Kid on the Block says...

VertisRob wrote:
If it wasn't for the library van turning up at school i would of had no inspiration to read as a child, i wouldn't of visited libraries as they are daunting for a first time without an introduction, i wouldn't of gone on to an a* in english literature, i wouldn't of gone into management and be paying the same level of tax. Why do our councils always do short term mathematics instead of long term
In your a* English Literature I would have expected you to learn the difference between have and of. Also capital letters and a few full stops would have helped.
[quote][p][bold]VertisRob[/bold] wrote: If it wasn't for the library van turning up at school i would of had no inspiration to read as a child, i wouldn't of visited libraries as they are daunting for a first time without an introduction, i wouldn't of gone on to an a* in english literature, i wouldn't of gone into management and be paying the same level of tax. Why do our councils always do short term mathematics instead of long term[/p][/quote]In your a* English Literature I would have expected you to learn the difference between have and of. Also capital letters and a few full stops would have helped. New Kid on the Block
  • Score: -2

10:32am Sun 20 Jul 14

CJH says...

New Kid on the Block wrote:
VertisRob wrote:
If it wasn't for the library van turning up at school i would of had no inspiration to read as a child, i wouldn't of visited libraries as they are daunting for a first time without an introduction, i wouldn't of gone on to an a* in english literature, i wouldn't of gone into management and be paying the same level of tax. Why do our councils always do short term mathematics instead of long term
In your a* English Literature I would have expected you to learn the difference between have and of. Also capital letters and a few full stops would have helped.
You beat me to it! While I think that it's usually more important what you say, than how you say it, (not you WN - no excuse for bad spelling and grammar in a newspaper!) comments like this by VertisRob (and he's not alone) lose the message he was trying to convey because it's so difficult to read it. If he's in management I would love to see some of his reports...
[quote][p][bold]New Kid on the Block[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]VertisRob[/bold] wrote: If it wasn't for the library van turning up at school i would of had no inspiration to read as a child, i wouldn't of visited libraries as they are daunting for a first time without an introduction, i wouldn't of gone on to an a* in english literature, i wouldn't of gone into management and be paying the same level of tax. Why do our councils always do short term mathematics instead of long term[/p][/quote]In your a* English Literature I would have expected you to learn the difference between have and of. Also capital letters and a few full stops would have helped.[/p][/quote]You beat me to it! While I think that it's usually more important what you say, than how you say it, (not you WN - no excuse for bad spelling and grammar in a newspaper!) comments like this by VertisRob (and he's not alone) lose the message he was trying to convey because it's so difficult to read it. If he's in management I would love to see some of his reports... CJH
  • Score: -2

10:56am Mon 21 Jul 14

Jabbadad says...

I am often guilty of miss-spelling in these columns, but those who prefer to do a spell check instead of read the intended message really need to get a hobby or get out more.
What was obviously being said was that without the libraries their interest in books and particularly English would not have been generated.
I am not a book worm but do read plenty of News items, but living in the City a library was always available, parents also bought books for kids, and there were always books at school although sometimes a little Moth eaten but we were encouraged to make temporary book covers . And frequently parents also donated books to school libraries.
However it seems that whilst waking up to lovely views and clean air in the rural districts, now has to reflect on the services (including Busses) which cost lot's more to provide than those in the smokey old cities.
I have long wondered how / why the very expensive mobile libraries were provided.
But of course Libraries don't just do books they really are information Highways spreading valuable details of services available to us all.
I am often guilty of miss-spelling in these columns, but those who prefer to do a spell check instead of read the intended message really need to get a hobby or get out more. What was obviously being said was that without the libraries their interest in books and particularly English would not have been generated. I am not a book worm but do read plenty of News items, but living in the City a library was always available, parents also bought books for kids, and there were always books at school although sometimes a little Moth eaten but we were encouraged to make temporary book covers . And frequently parents also donated books to school libraries. However it seems that whilst waking up to lovely views and clean air in the rural districts, now has to reflect on the services (including Busses) which cost lot's more to provide than those in the smokey old cities. I have long wondered how / why the very expensive mobile libraries were provided. But of course Libraries don't just do books they really are information Highways spreading valuable details of services available to us all. Jabbadad
  • Score: 4

12:48pm Mon 21 Jul 14

Hwicce says...

VertisRob wrote:
If it wasn't for the library van turning up at school i would of had no inspiration to read as a child, i wouldn't of visited libraries as they are daunting for a first time without an introduction, i wouldn't of gone on to an a* in english literature, i wouldn't of gone into management and be paying the same level of tax. Why do our councils always do short term mathematics instead of long term
But the thing is these days written information is readily available without a mobile library. Every PC and tablet, and most phones can deliver a book to you electronically. You don't need a van dragging a limited pile of paper ones around the countryside any more.
[quote][p][bold]VertisRob[/bold] wrote: If it wasn't for the library van turning up at school i would of had no inspiration to read as a child, i wouldn't of visited libraries as they are daunting for a first time without an introduction, i wouldn't of gone on to an a* in english literature, i wouldn't of gone into management and be paying the same level of tax. Why do our councils always do short term mathematics instead of long term[/p][/quote]But the thing is these days written information is readily available without a mobile library. Every PC and tablet, and most phones can deliver a book to you electronically. You don't need a van dragging a limited pile of paper ones around the countryside any more. Hwicce
  • Score: 0

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